Monday, October 29, 2012

Facebook Friends

Like. Like.
Like. Like.
Like. Like.
And beyond that click
Are questions
And meanings
And words
That are never said.
And lots more
From a distant friend
Just a click away...
Another like.
Another smile.
I like that!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Picking up a fight

Just the other day someone sent a link to a beautiful classical rendition of a Tarana (a style in classical music) in Raag Bhairon.  It was truly a blissful performance by an old guru.  I heard it over and over again.  Then out of curiosity scrolled down to see the comments other listeners have left on the page.  That, I think, was a big mistake.  But then, I wouldn’t have written this piece without that experience.

It amazes me, how easily people can pick up a fight over just about anything… even the most beautiful music.  Classical Indian music has had some very fine traditions based on respect - for the Guru or Ustad (the teacher) as well as for the music and the compositions.  I have had the good fortune of spending some time with an Ustad during my college years.  He was a soft spoken, pious, five-times-praying Muslim.  Knowing well, that I was a rebellious and non-religious person, he still took me as his student without any hesitation.  As years went by I began to realize that his serenity came from his music and his happiness from sharing it.  I do not remember him ever bad mouthing or knit picking anyone - even those who would make him wince by asking him to teach them seven Raags in the two weeks they had taken off from their busy schedule.  He would just smile and say “It took me all these year, but you may learn it faster”.

Once an overzealous, persistent young man asked him how much time would he require to master classical music.  Ustad chuckled, “Only three hundred years”.  The young man’s eyes popped out as Ustad continued, “Hundred years of good listening, hundred years of good practice and hundred years of good performance… and you will be there”.

Through numerous anecdotes and examples, he taught me that the art of music lies in becoming one with it, like a Sufi with his God.  When you achieve that purity ‘of notes and rhythm’, music becomes your lover.  After that there will be no place left in you for hatred.  Though I always saw him as a peaceful soul, immersed in his music, I was surprised when I found him reciting a bhajan, totally lost in it, one day.  Singing praises of a Hindu God did not seem a problem for this pious Muslim.

And here we are mistrusting and abusing each other for almost no rhyme or reason.  Am referring to the comments posted below that beautiful rendition I was listening to.  An aficionado has displayed his knowledge of classical music by listing down the names of classical music Gharanas (traditional schools) however all of them belonged to a particular religion.  It was followed by an abusive post with yet another list of Gharanas, all belonging to another religion and challenging the first one.  The next post abuses the second one and supports the first.  Religious lines drawn, the fight is on and the maestros, whose names they are fighting for, must be churning in their graves.

It is so easy to pick up a fight over nothing - thanks to our fears and mistrust of others; and our insecurities and confusions of being tied to imaginary boundaries that we ourselves continue to propagate.  How does it matter how many names of Gharanas or Raags one knows and the religion they may belong to?  Our claim to fame cannot be cramming some names and then trying to limit them into our self-defined stupid and artificial boundaries and borders.

Wish we could somehow strip ourselves off our fears and dive into music just to become one with it and sway, irrespective of our religions or a lack of it.  But then, it won't be as much fun as abusing another, right?


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Of Rape, Protest and Our Selfishness

‘Mard bano aurat ki izzat karo (Be a man, respect women)’, read a poster at a protest against harassment of women. An incident of gang-rape of a young woman working at a bar triggered a lot of anger and protests in Gurgaon, by the people of Gurgaon… or so they claimed. The incident was horrific. I completely stand by the woman. The perpetrators of this heinous crime must be punished… all seven of them. The irresponsible cops, who were informed immediately but instead of acting on the information took a dig at the girl for working late at a bar, must not be let off the hook for this massive dereliction of duty that allowed a rape, that could have been prevented, to happen. I am not sure who angers me more - the seven boys who raped the girl or the three policemen did not prevent it from happening.

Then began a series of protests. Various groups, various places… everyone venting out their anger… and rightfully so. The demand is to make Gurgaon safe for women. Now that is ridiculous - something as basic as safety has to be demanded? Should it not be provided proactively? We have the police, the government and departments and hundreds of officers and a whole paraphernalia to handle everything. Yet we have to struggle and fight for something as basic as safety? How is it possible that even when authorities are being paid to run a state (even the country, for that matter), people keep suffering from a lack of basic necessities - food, shelter and safety? What are those, supposedly running the system, doing and getting paid for? That answer isn’t that difficult to guess. The more difficult question is ‘WHY’. Why is it that things don’t work in this system? Why is it that people are discriminated against, and most remain poor and helpless, while a few keep getting richer and more powerful? The answer is not too difficult to guess but pretty difficult to digest.

In the fa├žade of being civilized and educated, we ourselves are responsible for the way things are. Discrimination begins right here. The power (in)equations are supported by us with a smile as we bow down to please those whom we fear.

We have it all ingrained and drilled into our head. We remain incapable of thinking beyond what is fed and of looking inside our own horrible heads. For example, and coming back to Gurgaon, we love to believe that we, who live in the high rises are ‘the’ people of Gurgaon. Are we really? What about those who actually owned these farmlands and grew crops here for ages till laws were bent and the land was bought over. Where are those people today? What was their culture? Do they have any place in this circus of beautiful words and apparent display of wealth, modesty and altruism?

Read the opening words again and think for a moment what is our own understanding of this system where patriarchal and economic concepts of disparity fuel most inequalities. ‘Mard bano aurat ki izzat karo (Be a man, respect women)’. Does this not follow that very patriarchal concept of being a ‘man’ that makes us believe that a woman is a ‘possession’ or a ‘property’ and thus lesser than man? Should it not have read, ‘human’ instead?

And this was just ONE such poster among various other things. Why do we miss out on the fundamental issues that lead to the problems… be it of safety or women or children or poor or whoever? What prevents us from analyzing our own thoughts and looking deep within? To top it all, one could even smell a silent race (of being on the top with more media coverage and headcounts) among some groups protesting for the issue.

We may believe we have evolved, but in the end we remain little selfish creatures who completely miss the point of understanding both life and humility. To sum up in the words of one of my favorite film makers, Charlie Chaplin, “I am at peace with God. My conflict is with Man.”

Dated: March 20, 2012